Faith groups are a big boost

North Wales Weekly News - - POLITICS/ OPINIONS - BY DAR­REN MIL­LAR Cl­wyd West AM @Dar­renMil­larAM

LAST year the House of Com­mons’ All Par­lia­men­tary Group on Faith and So­ci­ety de­vel­oped a Covenant for En­gage­ment – to sup­port faith com­mu­ni­ties to work with lo­cal author­i­ties con­struc­tively and ef­fec­tively.

The Covenant is a joint com­mit­ment be­tween churches, other faith groups and lo­cal coun­cils to a set of prin­ci­ples that guide en­gage­ment and pro­mote open, prac­ti­cal work­ing.

Un­der the Covenant, lo­cal author­i­ties com­mit to wel­com­ing the in­volve­ment of faith groups in the de­liv­ery of ser­vices and so­cial ac­tion on an equal ba­sis with other groups.

In re­turn, it re­quires faith-based or­gan­i­sa­tions to com­mit to work­ing ac­tively with lo­cal coun­cils in the de­sign and de­liv­ery of ser­vices to the public.

As chair of the Assem­bly cross -party group on faith, I am ex­tremely keen to see a sim­i­lar Covenant adopted by lo­cal author­i­ties in Wales.

While many have long recog­nised the fan­tas­tic con­tri­bu­tion of churches, mosques and other faith com­mu­ni­ties to life in Wales, the Faith in Wales, Count­ing Our Com­mu­ni­ties re­port pub­lished out by Gweini – the Coun­cil of the Chris­tian Vol­un­tary Sec­tor in Wales – un­der­scored their im­poror­tance by re­veal­ing thee sheer scale and breadth of that con­tri­bu­tion.

The re­port found that re­li­gious and faith or­gan­i­sa­tions con­trib­ute more than £100m in eco­nomic ben­e­fits to o Wales ev­ery year and thatat around 40,000 un­paid vol­un­teers do 80,000 hour­surs of com­mu­nity work each week.

In ad­di­tion to vol­un­teers, the groups em­ployed a fur­ther 1,400 paid staff work­ing around 23,000 hours per week. It also re­vealed that faith com­mu­ni­ties play an im­por­tant role in pro­tect­ing our her­itage by main­tain­ing more than 1,600 listed build­ings across the coun­try, help­ing to se­cure vis­its from 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple an­nu­ally.

Many Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties in par­tic­u­lar were able to demon­strate a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to pro­mot­ing the Welsh lan­guage and cul­ture, with a third of churches and chapelsp in Wales hold­ing ser­vices in WelshWe and 800 host­ing othe other Welsh lan­guageba based ac­tiv­i­ties.

The study also conc cluded that faith groups pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tion for other non-re­li­gious lo­cal or­gan­isati tions play­ing an im im­por­tant part in fos­ter­ing grass roots mu­sic and sport sports. A Fait Faith Covenant for Wales would help to ce­ment a re­spect for their ef­forts and pro­vide a set of work­ing prin­ci­ples to help us all get the big­gest so­cial ben­e­fit, as those public ser­vices con­tinue to change. Or­gan­i­sa­tions and the ser­vices they pro­vide can only be­come stronger if we all work to­gether.

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